One of the harsh realities of the COVID-19 pandemic is prolonged isolation, especially among high-risk groups. For homebound seniors in the United Way Meals on Wheels program, however, isolation is a familiar feeling. For many Meals on Wheels clients, delivery of their meals by a volunteer is the only social interaction they may have all day. But out of necessity in March, the program shifted from daily delivery of hot meals to weekly delivery of frozen or shelf-stable meals to limit everyone’s risk of exposure. Safety first, of course, although these measures have resulted in even more isolation. It’s enough to dampen the holiday spirit; but in times of crisis, hope shines brightest.
Thanks to dedicated community partners and volunteers, Meals on Wheels delivered some much-needed holiday cheer to hundreds of clients throughout Jefferson County. Margaret McColl and Stacy Rowland, longtime Birmingham residents and United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) donors, helped set a holly-jolly tone by providing 100 miniature Christmas trees, each thoughtfully and thematically hand-decorated. Some trees were decked out in traditional holiday swag, such as nutcrackers or snow-dusted stars, while others shone with brightly painted tropical fish or artistic baked goods.
“Each tree took about an hour, so we really just had fun with them,” said McColl. “We knew Meals on Wheels knew their clients well enough to find the perfect fit for each tree.”
And the beautiful trees aren’t the only way United Way Meals on Wheels is delivering hope to homebound seniors this holiday season! As part of the Be a Santa to a Senior program, the Birmingham franchise of Home Instead Senior Care provided 400 gift bags filled with goodies, including cozy blankets, sweet treats and activity books.
“We’ve all felt isolated at some point during the pandemic, but seniors are especially at risk of feeling isolated,” said Dan Pahos, owner of the Birmingham Home Instead operation. “A simple gift can show them that we are thinking of them. And that’s more important this year than ever.”
When it came time to make deliveries, volunteers had plenty of holiday spirit to share. Although their smiles were hidden under masks, they showed their cheer with festive touches like holiday attire and decorated vehicles. The man in red and three of his elves even made an appearance to deliver a few gifts to homebound seniors in New Hope!
“Normally we dress up and go to nursing homes to sing carols,” said Amanda, Head Elf. “Since we couldn’t do that this year, we thought this would be a good way to safely spread some cheer.”
In a year like no other, United Way Meals on Wheels is happy to deliver hope to homebound seniors!